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Blu-ray, HD-DVD Square Off at CES

6 Jan, 2005 By: Kurt Indvik

In the race to get to market first, supporters of HD-DVD threw down the gauntlet before competing high-definition format Blu-ray Disc at this week's Consumer Electronics Show by announcing a bushel of titles to be ready in time for the format's launch in late 2005.

The two competing camps for the next-generation high-definition format competed for the media's attention in back-to-back, standing-room only press events on Thursday, Jan. 6.

At the HD-DVD presentation, the home video presidents for the five studios supporting that format (HBO Video, New Line Home Entertainment, Paramount Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video) were on hand to announce dozens of titles that would be ready for the format's launch in late 2005. Warner alone will field 50 titles, including upcoming hits like Constantine, and the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, along with a variety of recent hits and catalog titles, including the “Harry Potter” and “Matrix” franchises. Universal joins with a variety of titles, including The Chronicles of Riddick and Van Helsing, while Paramount's Braveheart and Mission Impossible 2 are among its offerings.

Disc replicator Memory-Tech said it is ready to produce up to 50 million HD-DVD discs per year, while Cinram also announced it will have the capability to produce a DVD/HD-DVD disc that can deliver a film in both formats on one disc, should studios choose to offer that option. HD-DVD also announced Thomson Consumer Electronics as its newest member.

Meanwhile, one studio president was overheard at the event saying to another, “Looks like we have a format war, Fox is going with Blu-ray.” But Fox executives later said no such announcement had been made.

The Blu-ray Disc Association was less substantive, but did indicate the format was working to include the significant video game business in its strategy. Blu-ray announced four new members: Hardware suppliers Texas Instruments and Sun Micro, and video game makers Electronic Arts and Vivendi Universal Games. Representatives of Electronic Arts and Vivendi Universal Games were quick to emphasize the greater capacity of Blu-ray for video games, increasing in space demand all the time.

Optimism abounded as well, as Richard Doherty of Panasonic made it clear to the audience: “Blu-ray Disc is here today.” The format is expected to have hardware in the market by the end of 2005, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made earlier commitments that it would have product ready by that time as well. Studios supporting Blu-ray are Sony Pictures, MGM (in a Sony acquisition) and Buena Vista Home Entertainment.During the event duplicator/compression shop Deluxe said it will have compression capability for Blu-ray ready by the end of 2005.

— Reporting for this story were Thomas K. Arnold and Stephanie Prange.

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